"Blind Love/Our Love Story"
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Lee Weeks & Stefano Gaudiano (p & i), Matt Hollingsworth (colours)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Just as Ed Brubaker took time out at the end of his first arc to offer a one-shot issue which focused on a single member of Daredevil's supporting cast (in that case, Foggy Nelson), the end of his second arc brings a done-in-one story which centres around Matt Murdock's wife, Milla Donovan. Like Foggy, Milla has been out of the spotlight for much of Brubaker's run, and this issue is a welcome examination of her character in preparation for (presumably) a more regular role in the comic.
However, despite being an issue of Daredevil, this isn't really a superhero story. Nor is it a piece of noir crime in the vein of Brubaker's previous Daredevil issues. This is a romance comic. Don't be put off by that label, though, as Brubaker harnesses the inherent melodrama of being the girlfriend of a costumed vigilante and twists it into a musing on the complexities of human relationships which should be familiar to anyone who has ever been frustrated by the person they love most in the world. Tracing the history of Matt and Milla's relationship from her first appearance in the book to the last time we saw her (and filling in a few gaps on the way), Brubaker outlines her complex sentiments in a way which feels wholly sympathetic - especially considering Matt's refusal to abandon his dangerous double-life - but also manages to be completely realistic, despite the more fantastical elements of Matt's role as Daredevil. Milla knows Matt, and she appreciates the heartbreaking inevitability of their relationship in so astute a manner that it comes close to breaking the metaphorical fourth wall. However, Brubaker also makes us understand why she stays with him, and the bittersweet lines which deal with their relationship as being defined by the things which go unsaid and the silent sacrifices that Milla makes for her husband (including her comparisons to one of Matt's other great loves, Karen Page) carry a ring of truth which helps to sell the relationship more convincingly than ever before.
Lee Weeks' and Stefano Gaudiano's artwork is solid, as even though they're called upon to revisit past scenes for much of the issue, they show a strong understanding of when to ape the work of previous illustrators and when to re-interpret the scenes to cast them in a new light. The dark tone of Weeks' artwork are a smooth fit for Daredevil's world, and his clear storytelling means that readers can follow Milla's narrative easily, concentrating on the emotion of the story rather than having to spend any time deciphering the visuals. The book also wins bonus points for its fantastic retro-style cover by Jazzy John Romita. Capturing the essence of an issue in a single, defining image with an appeal which is immediate enough to "sell" the book from the shelf but which also stands as a fine piece of artwork in its own right is something of a lost art in superhero comics, as too many books rely on flashy pinups which bear little or no relevance to the contents of the issue. Industry veteran Romita shows us how it's done here, encapsulating the sentiment of Brubaker's story with ease. The way that Milla is placed in the foreground, with Matt as Daredevil in the background, emphasising the concentration on her feelings; the hesitation yet determination on Daredevil's face as he leaves his crying wife behind, showing consideration for her emotions but ultimately abandoning her; and the melodramatic, soft colouring: all of the elements combine to create as perfect a cover as I've seen in quite some time. Special credit must also go to whomever is in charge of the graphic design of the cover, as the addition of the old-style Marvel sidebar (with the month of publication, price in cents and the mini-image of DD himself) is a great touch.
Whilst there's not a lot that's new in this issue in terms of story, with Brubaker essentially recapping the last few years of Daredevil through Milla's eyes, the result is that it's the best jumping-on issue that the book has had in more than five years. After last issue "reset" certain elements of the book, bringing an effective end to many of the story elements which were hanging over from Brian Bendis' run on the title, this issue gives us a glimpse of Brubaker's take on Matt's complex personal life before launching into the next multi-issue arc. I'm keen to see where the writer takes the character next, as judging by the tone of this issue, his life isn't going to get easier any time soon - and that's just the way I like it.
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